Panel faults ex-Pitt researcher for falsifying stem cell data
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A federal panel has concluded that a postdoctoral fellow knowingly falsified data while trying to clone monkey embryos in the lab of University of Pittsburgh stem cell expert Gerald Schatten.
The Office of Research Integrity ruled that for three years as of Nov. 29, South Korean researcher Jong Hyuk Park will not be allowed to apply for U.S.-funded research grants or to serve "in any advisory capacity" to the Public Health Service.
Dr. Park was at Pitt from August 2004 until February 2006, when he returned to Korea, said university spokeswoman Lisa Rossi. Prior to that, he conducted research in the lab of Hwang Woo-Suk, who left Seoul National University in disgrace after his experiments that purportedly generated stem cells from cloned human embryos were discredited last year.
Research papers that appeared in Science in 2004 and 2005 led by Dr. Hwang, and co-authored by Dr. Park, were retracted last year.
Dr. Schatten, of Magee-Womens Research Institute, and others informed Pitt's research integrity officer of their concerns that Dr. Park was guilty of misconduct in his work at the lab, and an investigation was conducted from Jan. 19 to April 26, 2006.
Based in part on Pitt's findings, the federal oversight panel said that in a paper being prepared about cloning monkey embryos to generate stem cells, Dr. Park "intentionally and knowingly" falsified two figures, presented them as the real thing to lab colleagues and the panel and tried to cover up what he'd done by attempting to alter records and destroy evidence.
That research, intended for the prestigious journal Nature, was never submitted for publication, Ms. Rossi said.
Since Dr. Park's departure from Pittsburgh, "there has been no contact with him," she added.
A university panel also investigated Dr. Schatten, who co-authored one of the retracted Science papers with Dr. Hwang. It concluded last year that he was guilty of research misbehavior, but not misconduct, for failing to fulfill his responsibilities as a senior investigator.
He and his colleagues are re-doing the work that Dr. Park's fabrications could have called into question.
"It was decided to start from scratch," Ms. Rossi said. "While they had confidence in the findings from the previous experiments, it was felt they should repeat all of the same experiments and obtain new data."
First Published January 11, 2007 12:00 am